By Kristi Parsons

As summer comes to an end, autumn hues begin to cover the stunning rolling ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains. They begin in the higher elevations and slowly make their way to the base of mountains for one last hurrah, just before the hills fall into a deep slumber until the buds of spring appear the following year. In this month’s feature, I’ve put together a few different autumn adventure ideas for you. Seize the season and do them all, mix & match, or pick your favorite and enjoy the most beautiful time of the year in the Smokies.

Scenic Drives, Shopping, and Solitude 

Mountain Lodge Gatlinburg is a locally owned vacation home that is a perfect balance of rustic and luxury. The 25 acres of private property is located only a few minutes away from downtown Gatlinburg, the national park, and the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community. The stunning views of the Smokies, fire pit, hot tub, outdoor seating, and cozy interior set the perfect ambiance for a fall retreat with your sweetheart, family, or a few friends. Spend a day browsing the work of more than 100 artists and craftsmen in the arts district, take a drive up to Clingman Dome or along the Foothills Parkway, and spend the night relaxing at the cabin. 

Rise early the next day and make your way into downtown Gatlinburg, and kick the day off with a trip to the Pancake Pantry or Donut Friar. A stroll through The Village is sure to kickstart your excitement for the fun that awaits throughout the rest of the day. If you’re visiting during the last two weeks of October, a visit to the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is a must, as is the Oktoberfest at Ober that runs until the end of October. 

Are you a lover of wine? The Gatlinburg Garden Club Wine Fest returns on October 15th. If you can’t make it to the festival, plan on doing the Gatlinburg Wine Trail, making time to stop in Tennessee Homemade Wines. The winery keeps a solid 5-star set of reviews on TripAdvisor and was voted Tennessee’s Best Winery by Yelp in 2022. You’ll also find sips of the season being served up in the form of hot mulled cider at their sister business, Tennessee Cider Company. If you find yourself tired from the hustle and bustle of the day, treat yourself to dinner with a view at Anakeesta or at my personal favorite culinary spot in Gatlinburg, The Greenbrier. 

Note: If Mountain Lodge Gatlinburg is booked on the dates you’re wanting to stay, be sure to check out Mason Jar Lodge, which is located just a bit up the road and has the same great host.

Camping, Cammerer, and Coffee 

Are you more interested in a dose of solitude with a deeper connection to nature? Then a camping trip is what you need! Visit the national park website, book a campsite in the Cosby Campground, pack up your camping and hiking gear, and escape to one of the most peaceful corners of the Smokies. From the campground, you can explore the nature trail, hike out to Hen Wallow Falls, or take on the challenge of hiking to Mount Cammerer. 

During your time in Cosby, I highly recommend stopping off at Our Place Books, having a cup of freshly brewed coffee, and getting lost in the abundance of books that they have in stock. You’ll find books about the Smokies, Gatlinburg, and other nearby areas that you often can’t find anywhere else. 

Another great stop for the season is Carver’s Orchard & Applehouse Restaurant. I know I can’t imagine a more picture perfect setting for the season. Or wait, can I? Of course I can! Next up…

A Slice of Heaven Hideaway 

This next destination will take you over the hills and through the woods to the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. Hidden on a hillside along the boundary of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a slice of Southern Appalachia heaven known as The Swag. The luxury getaway is the highest boutique destination on the east coast and has been featured in countless travel magazines. Each of the cozy hideaways and private cabins offer a unique and romantic setting that is filled with rustic charm, fine linens, top of the line furniture & décor, and much more. 

Guests are welcome to leave the property, but I can’t imagine any reason why you would want to venture off anywhere else. Guests are treated to one of the state’s top executive chefs being the mastermind behind the small-batch dining experiences that are served up for every meal, as well as a long list of experiences waiting for each guest: hiking, an onsite spa, horseback riding, wine & cocktail tastings, tours with experts in residence, a pond for fishing, and a variety of books and games.

Have you decided on which autumn adventure is perfect for you? The possibilities are endless as the season approaches. Pack some patience as leaf peepers begin to roll into town, always be bear wise while visiting the Smokies, and please be sure to practice responsible stewardship while exploring America’s most visited national park.